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Connellsville residents cluck over chicken dreams

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By Rachel Basinger
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 10:51 p.m.

A handful of residents along with representatives from Sustainable Connellsville cried “fowl” at the Connellsville City council meeting on Thursday night in hopes of swaying officials into changing the city code to allow residents to own chickens.

Geno Gallo with Sustainable Connellsville said he has had a number of residents express an interest in urban chicken coops as an easy way to provide organic eggs and even meat for their family.

Currently the city code does not allow for chickens to be raised within the city limits but several individuals were on hand to tell council the benefits of home-raised chickens. In fact, they told council raising chickens is growing in popularity — even in big cities like Pittsburgh and New York.

Some members of council as well as Mayor Charles Matthews had some concerns about the request, including any health risks or noise nuisance the chickens might pose.

Resident Scott Felgar said there would be minimal noise from the chickens, since the plan was to have hens only, which, for the most part, just cluck.

“We're not going to have roosters — they belong on a farm — so noise shouldn't be a problem,” he said.

In regards to any health risks, resident Cecilia Driscoll said the avian flu does not come from just three or four chickens, but instead, from hundreds of chickens together in a poor environment.

Dr. Paul Dascani said in the 20 years he has been practicing in the area, he has never once had a case where an individual had gotten sick from a chicken.

Driscoll said the health benefits of organic eggs that don't have any chemicals, hormones or pesticides in them is a huge deal. She said an organic egg has one-third less cholesterol, two-thirds more Vitamin A and three times the amount of Vitamin E that a store-bought egg has.

She said chickens are natural insect eaters and will take care of the pesky mosquitoes and ticks.

Resident David Stupka said he was hoping to have no more than three chickens and the animals would be in a cage and not free roaming birds.

Felgar suggested the city could require anyone having chickens to get a permit from the municipality. That would allow city officials to monitor who had and where the chickens would be housed.

“We're not looking to have 10 or 20 chickens,” he said. “Three chickens lay more than enough eggs.”

Stupka added that an ordinance could also include a stipulation that all chickens should be “non-clucking.”

Councilwoman Marilyn Weaver asked what would happen if a neighbor did not want the chickens next door.

Driscoll asked Weaver what they do if a neighbor doesn't want a dog or cat on a neighboring property.

“Just as they must be with a dog or cat, the owner would have to be responsible,” she said.

As an owner of a single family home on the South Side, Weaver said she would be against this idea.

“I don't think farm animals belong in the city,” she said.

Driscoll said many cities have allowed the raising of urban chickens and suggested council look and see how those cities are handling the situation.

Gallo suggested that the city could do a pilot program and see how it goes.

“There's no reason someone can't do this responsibly without affecting their neighbor,” he said, adding that Sustainable Connellsville is willing to offer a “how to” book and gather information to pass on to council within the next month.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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